The fourth annual conference on child abuse education, prevention and investigation was held last Wednesday and Thursday, April 21 and 22 in Spratt Hall.
The conference is hosted and sponsored by several departments on campus including the Regional Law Enforcement Academy, the Western Institute, the Department of Criminal Justice, Legal Studies, and Social Work, the Department of Nursing, the Department of Education, and the Northwest Missouri Children’s Advocacy Center.
Professor of legal studies, David Tushaus, says the sessions were also sponsored by the JAYC [Just Ask Yourself to Care] foundation, which helps children and families in need of healing after experiencing trauma.
Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was abducted at 11 years old and wasn’t reunited with her family until 18 years later, started the foundation as a way of providing support, protection and healing to those in need.
“It is helpful for people in the profession, but also for people who have suffered similar types of abuse and neglect issues, to be able to hear about [Dugard’s] story,” Tushaus said.
The main goal of the conference was to educate the general public on the issue of child abuse and neglect. Kip Wilson, associate professor of criminal justice, says there were several sessions that were open for all students, faculty and community members.
“They’re designed to have some for educators, some are for lawyers, some are for social workers, some are for law enforcement and some are more for the medical side of things,” Wilson said.
Tushaus explains why the sessions are important to the criminal justice department.
“A big part of the investigation part of the conference has to do with law enforcement, and law enforcement’s role in investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect,” Tushaus said.
The conferences are put on each year to educate Missouri Western students, staff and the general public on the importance of the investigations of child abuse and neglect.
“We recognize that it’s important that these cases be investigated properly both to preserve evidence and to avoid re-victimizing the victim,” Tushaus said.
The sessions are also a way of shedding light on a subject that Psychology Professor Teddi Deka says is prevalent in all societies.
“It’s really important that other people that are involved with children are aware of recognizing child abuse or child neglect,” Deka said.
Some resources community members can provide to a child who is suffering from neglect are making sure the child has food, getting resources to the parents and providing education for parents and their children.
Deka stresses the importance of parenting education classes in high schools and for the general public as a helpful step in the prevention of abuse and neglect in children.
“I think parent education is the number one prevention,” Deka said. “We need to educate parents about how to be better parents.”
Wilson explains that another prevention of child abuse involves being more aware of the subject and taking the steps in reporting cases and providing adequate investigations.
“Part of it is children are almost treated as objects or possessions, and so we investigate them completely different than we would some other crime,” Wilson said.
He gives the example of when people notice a dog left on a chain without food or water and calls it in, the criminal goes to jail, whereas when children are in the situation of being neglected or abused they may not even have an investigation.
At the keynote presentation, which took place on Wednesday and was free to the public, the statistics of child abuse cases not being reported were shown. In 1999, 3.244 million children reported abuse or neglect, and only 28-33 percent of these cases will get investigated.
“I think it’s important to report it,” Wilson said. “If [the community] feel that something is wrong then they try to make sure that somebody looks at it, or if they can’t intervene themselves, make sure that somebody else will intervene.”